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Putin in China: The Russian-Chinese Alliance

Putin’s meetings with the Chinese leadership in Beijing and Tashkent consolidate the most powerful alliance in the world today.

Alexander Mercouris

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Though it has received minimal attention in the West, last week Putin completed his 15th visit to China where he held intensive talks with the Chinese leadership led by Chinese President Xi Jinping. 

This came directly after Putin met Xi Jinping at the immediately preceding Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Tashkent.  According to Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang, whom Putin also met in Beijing, Xi Jinping has met Putin more often than he has met any other foreign leader.

On the Russian side the talks between Putin and the Chinese leadership in Beijing did not involve Putin alone.  Putin’s meeting with Xi Jinping in Beijing started as a one-to-one meeting with just the two leaders and their interpreters present.  It was then expanded to include top officials and ministers of both the Russian and Chinese governments.

Whilst we do not know the details of the topics which were discussed – and Putin and Xi Jinping avoided discussing them in open press conferences – the information we have suggests that the talks were very detailed and very wide-ranging:

“Documents signed include a declaration between Russia and China on raising the role of international law, intergovernmental agreements on cooperation on joint implementation of a programme to develop, produce, commercialise and organise after-sales service of a wide-bodied, long-haul plane and development of further models based on this plane, cooperation on a programme to build a heavy helicopter, cooperation on technology protection measures related to work together on exploring and using outer space for peaceful purposes and developing and operating launch systems and ground-based space infrastructure, and an appendix to an agreement on cooperation on building a nuclear power plant on Chinese territory and on Russia according China a state loan.

Other agreements concern coordination of joint efforts within international groups and organisations, cooperation in the forestry sector, innovation sector, securities market regulation, insurance, cooperation on localising production of high-speed rolling stock and railway equipment on Russian territory, cooperation in the oil and gas sector, cooperation between the two countries’ media outlets, and sports sector cooperation.

Also signed was a joint declaration between the Eurasian Economic Union Commission and the Chinese Ministry of Commerce on the official start of talks on an agreement on trade and economic cooperation between the Eurasian Economic Union and the People’s Republic of China.”

The last paragraph makes clear that the Chinese not only received Putin as the President of Russia.  They also received him as the de facto leader of the Eurasian Economic Union, an organisation the Western media never reports about and which as far as the Western media is concerned might as well not exist.

The official communiques say nothing about defence and foreign policy discussions but we can sure they took place and that the full range of international relations – Ukraine, Syria, North Korea, the South China Sea, arms control, defence etc – were discussed, as were the various projects for building a new global financial architecture independent of the US and the dollar, which the Chinese especially are pressing ahead with.  Almost certainly the reason why the Russian and Chinese leaders did not engage with the international media following their discussions is because they did not want to be asked questions about the discussions they had on these topics.

I do not know of cooperation between any two other Great Powers in the world today which is so close.  Contrary to what is often said, cooperation between Russia and China today at a political and military-strategic level is very much closer today than it was in the days of their formal alliance in the 1950s, when meetings between Soviet and Chinese leaders were infrequent and frequently tense. 

Whilst economic and technological relations between the two countries are still lagging, they are – as the communiques show – developing rapidly.  By way of example and contrary to some media claims, the two countries are forging ahead with their pipeline projects, which are in active construction.  Claims by some Western and pro-Western Russian liberal commentators that they will never be built are wishful thinking.

Beyond these bilateral questions there are the greater plans which Putin discussed at SPIEF 2016 for the Eurasian Economic Union and China to conclude free trade agreements with each other, with Russia and China working to merge the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union and the Chinese-led Silk Road Project into a single whole as part of their joint “Greater Eurasia” project in which they ultimately want to involve Europe too.

All this is only the visible tip of the iceberg of Russian-Chinese relations.  As I have discussed previously, there are certain to be scores of secret agreements between the Chinese and the Russians we know nothing about: to share intelligence (including for example signals intelligence and data from satellites) and to coordinate foreign policy and for defence cooperation including technology sharing.  We know for example that the Russians and the Chinese have representatives at each others’ command headquarters and that recently they carried out in Moscow a joint command exercise involving joint operation of their respective anti-ballistic missile defences, something the US would never do at such a level with any of its allies.

Though we know little about some of these agreements, it is possible to make educated guesses about some of them.  In terms of defence technology cooperation the Chinese for example are known to rely heavily on Russian liquid fuel technology for their rocket engines both for their ballistic missiles and for their space programme, which in general appears to rely heavily on Russian technology, even for design of space vehicles.  As it happens, the information from the latest summit meeting in Beijing suggests that the Russians and the Chinese could even be taking their first steps towards merging their respective space programmes.  The Chinese also seem to depend heavily on the Russians for their gas turbine technology including for their military aircraft engines.  In fact there are rumours – always denied – that Chinese military aircraft projects draw heavily on Russian technical advice.  The Russians for their part are said to rely on the Chinese increasingly for electronic subcomponents for some of their systems and there are persistent rumours – also always denied – that they have looked to the Chinese for help with development of their aerial drones.

In foreign policy coordination it seems fairly clear that there are agreements for Russia to take the lead in the Syrian conflict and for China to take the lead in any matter concerning North Korea, with the two countries however always supporting each other’s positions in each conflict. 

It is a certainty – and Putin has recently confirmed as much – that the Russians and the Chinese also talk to each continuously about all other international questions and take care to coordinate their positions in respect of them.  They have certainly done so for example in relation to such questions as the Ukrainian conflict (where China has quietly recognised Crimea as a part of Russia), the Iranian nuclear agreement, the conflict between China and the US in the South China Sea (where Russia backs China) and China’s claim for unification with Taiwan (ditto).

Importantly, we do not know the identities of the individuals in the Russian and Chinese governments who on a day to day basis conduct these contacts, though obviously the embassies of the two countries in each others’ capitals are heavily involved.  However it is striking that the two countries’ foreign ministers – Sergey Lavrov and Wang Yi – do not appear to be involved.  They scarcely ever meet with each other or visit each other’s countries, which suggests that the two countries’ leaderships have, quite intentionally, assigned them the task of dealing with relations with third countries and not with anything to do with the relationship Russia and China have forged with each other.  Apparently this is dealt with at a different and more senior level.

The best guess is that in the Russian case the official who has day to day management of Russia’s relations with China is Sergey Ivanov, Putin’s powerful Chief of Staff and head of Russia’s Presidential Administration, who appears to have frequent meetings with Chinese officials.

In all essentials this is an extremely close alliance between two Great Powers.  It is sometimes said that because it is not underpinned by ideology but rests purely on self-interest that somehow makes it brittle.  My own view on the contrary is that the fact that the alliance is based purely on self-interest and not on ideology or sentiment – so that the two allies have no illusions about each other – makes it deeper and stronger.

The alliance does however have one special feature which in the modern world makes it unique.  Most countries when they forge alliances with other countries go out of their way to publicise the fact. By contrast the reason why the alliance between Russia and China is not widely recognised for what it is, is because of the extraordinary lengths to which both Great Powers go to deny the fact of its existence. 

The reason for this is not difficult to see.  Alliances tend to get defined by their enemies.  The Russian-Chinese alliance is clearly pitted against the other great alliance system of the modern world: that of the US and its allies.  Both the Russians and the Chinese however want to maintain at least for the moment the fiction that they and the US and its allies are not enemies or even adversaries but are “partners”.  Though with the crises in Ukraine and the South Sea China Sea this fiction is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain, it remains important to both the Russians and the Chinese to preserve it so that they can maintain a political dialogue not just with the US but also with the US’s allies, especially Germany and Japan, as well as a place in the international institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF which have been historically dominated by the US. 

It is precisely for this reason that neocon hardliners in the US like Senator McCain, who want to preserve the US’s geostrategic dominance, want on the contrary to tear down all pretences and to define Russia and China openly and clearly as the US’s enemies.  That way they hope to reimpose tighter block discipline within the Western alliance and end any prospect of US allies becoming involved in Russian and Chinese projects like China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank or the Russian/Chinese  “Greater Eurasia” and Silk Road projects.  They also hope that way to minimise or even exclude Russian and Chinese influence from US dominated international institutions like the IMF and the World Bank.  Of course defining China as a US enemy also plays into the hands of protectionists in the US like Donald Trump, who would like to use that as an excuse to close the US market to Chinese goods.

Beyond the very complex relations Russia and China have with the West – which for the moment it is in their interest to keep complex – the Russians and the Chinese also have to consider the effect the public acknowledgement of their alliance would have on third powers such as India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Iran, which have had a history of conflicts with either Russia or China. By concealing the fact of their alliance the Russians and the Chinese can each preserve their historic relations with old friends – in Russia’s case with India, South Korea and Vietnam, in China’s case with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran – which might otherwise become alarmed at the public announcement that a country they had always assumed was a friend had now formally become an ally of a former foe with whom they might still have a prickly relationship.

Last but not least, concealing the fact of their alliance for the Russians and the Chinese comes with the added dividend that influential US analysts and commentators such as former US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul can remain in denial about it.  A Russian-Chinese alliance being for such people a possibility too horrible to contemplate, the fact the Russians and the Chinese don’t announce it means that such people can continue to deny it even as evidence for it piles up around them.  That suits the Russians and the Chinese perfectly, since it ensures that these people won’t try to mobilise US opinion against them.

The result is that though Russian and Chinese officials occasionally let slip that they see each other as allies – as Putin did the other day – in general they try to conceal the fact, pretending that their countries are not formal allies at all even though that is in fact precisely what they are.  Thus in place of “alliance” they prefer to use the euphemism of “strategic partnership” or increasingly “grand strategic partnership” to describe their relationship. 

It is also partly to conceal the fact of their alliance that the Russians and the Chinese have weaved a complex web of organisations around their alliance of which the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the BRICS are just two.  Such organisations enable the Russians and the Chinese to create institutions like the BRICS Bank or the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as multilateral ventures which are not targeted at the West, as it would not be possible for them to do if they were openly allied to each other. 

These organisations also enable the Russians and the Chinese to engage countries like Brazil, India, Iran and Pakistan in a friendly way, treating them as equal partners, as they seek to extend the influence of their alliance into places like southern Africa and Latin America where it might not otherwise reach.

It is a common trope that the world today is moving from a unipolar world dominated by one superpower – the US – towards a multipolar world, where there will be a more complex interchange between rival centres of power. 

Whilst with the rise of India I think that is basically true, I do not think the terms unipolar or multipolar properly describe the world as it is now.  Rather I think the world today is basically bipolar, just as it was during the Cold War, with two great international alliances facing off against each other just as they did then.  Whereas during the Cold War it was the US and the Western alliance which faced off against the USSR and its Warsaw Pact allies, today it is the US and the Western alliance versus the Eurasian alliance that has crystallised around Russia and China, which also includes certain Central Asian states that were formerly part of the USSR and which may shortly also include Iran. 

That the duel between these two great alliances, unlike the Cold War, is being conducted mainly in the shadows and without the ideological dimension that marked the Cold War does not mean it is any less real.  On the contrary it is not only real but is taking place all the time and as it is happening it is reshaping our world.

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James Woods Suspended From Twitter Over Satirical Meme That Could “Impact An Election”

James Woods crushes Jack Dorsey: “You are a coward, @Jack.”

Alex Christoforou

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Via Zerohedge


Outspoken conservative actor James Woods was suspended from posting to Twitter over a two-month-old satirical meme which very clearly parodies a Democratic advertisement campaign. While the actor’s tweets are still visible, he is unable to post new content.

The offending tweet from July 20, features three millennial-aged men with “nu-male smiles” and text that reads “We’re making a Woman’s Vote Worth more by staying home.” Above it, Woods writes “Pretty scary that there is a distinct possibility this could be real. Not likely, but in this day and age of absolute liberal insanity, it is at least possible.”

According to screenshots provided by an associate of Woods’, Twitter directed the actor to delete the post on the grounds that it contained “text and imagery that has the potential to be misleading in a way that could impact an election.

In other words, James Woods, who has approximately 1.72 million followers, was suspended because liberals who don’t identify as women might actually take the meme seriously and not vote. 

In a statement released through associate Sara Miller, Woods said “You are a coward, @Jack,” referring to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. “There is no free speech for Conservatives on @Twitter.

Earlier this month, Woods opined on the mass-platform ban of Alex Jones, tweeting: ““I’ve never read Alex Jones nor watched any of his video presence on the internet. A friend told me he was an extremist. Believe me that I know nothing about him. That said, I think banning him from the internet is a slippery slope. This is the beginning of real fascism. Trust me.”

Nu-males everywhere non-threateningly smirk at Woods’ bad fortune…

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Another witness named by Ford becomes third person to deny being at party

A woman believed to have been one of five people at a party 35 years ago where Ford claims she was assaulted by Kavanaugh is now the fourth person to deny being at any such party.

The Duran

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Via The Washington Examiner


A witness, reportedly named by Christine Blasey Ford as one of the people at the high school party where Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh allegedly sexually assaulted her, told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Saturday she was not there.

The attorney for Leland Ingham Keyser told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Keyser does not remember being at the party Ford described as the location of the alleged assault.

“Ms. Keyser does not know Mr. Kavanaugh and she has no recollection of ever being at a party or gathering where he was present, with, or without, Dr. Ford,” Keyser said in the statement. CNN reported Keyser is a lifelong friend of Ford’s.

Keyser, whom the New York Times reported is one of the people Ford named as being in attendance at the party, is the third witness who has denied knowing about the alleged assault. Mark Judge and Patrick Smyth said earlier this week they did not remember the party in question.

Kavanaugh has denied Ford’s allegation.

The news comes after Ford, through her attorneys, tentatively agreed to testify on Thursday, after days of negotiations over the timing and conditions of her

Committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, had repeatedly extended deadlines set for Ford’s team on the decision, including three on Friday and one at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Grassley threatened to proceed with a committee vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination Monday if he did not hear from Ford.

“Five times now we [have] granted extension for Dr Ford to decide if she wants to proceed [with] her desire stated one [week] ago that she wants to tell senate her story,” Grassley tweeted Friday. “Dr Ford if u changed ur mind say so so we can move on I want to hear ur testimony. Come to us or we to u.”

The extended discussions have been labeled a delaying tactic by some Republicans.

Ford’s attorneys and Grassley’s aides will reportedly continue negotiations Sunday on the details of the conditions of Ford’s testimony, per the New York Times.

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Was NYT Story About Rosenstein ‘Coup Attempt’ A Setup?

The New York Times is reporting that Rod Rosenstein pushed a plan to record President Trump and invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.

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Via Zerohedge


Is the FBI trying to goad President Trump into firing the man in charge of supervising the Mueller probe? That’s what Sean Hannity and a handful of  Trump’s Congressional allies think.

According to a report in Politico, Republicans in Congress are approaching a story about Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein attempting to organize a palace coup with extreme caution, despite having twice nearly gathered the votes to remove him in the recent past.

On Friday, the NYT reported a bombshell story alleging that Rosenstein had tried to recruit administration officials to secretly tape conversations with the president in order to help justify removing Trump under the 25th amendment. Rosenstein vehemently denied the story, which was largely based on confidential memos written by former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe. And others who were reportedly in attendance at meeting between McCabe and Rosenstein said the Deputy AG was being “sarcastic” when he suggested that the president be taped.

Meanwhile, Trump allies including Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan and Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz are saying that the story should be treated with suspicion. Jordan and Freedom Caucus leader Mark Meadows once filed articles of impeachment against Rosenstein. But now, both Meadows and Jordan intend to proceed with caution, telling Politico that he would like to see the memos that the story was based on.

House Freedom Caucus leaders Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan, who led a charge to impeach Rosenstein this summer, have said they want to hear from Rosenstein and see documents allegedly describing the comments before they decide what to do.That’s awarded Rosenstein a courtesy they’ve never given him in the past.

“I think Rod needs to come before Congress this week and explain under oath what exactly he said and didn’t say,” Meadows said at the Values Voters Summit Saturday.

The newfound hesitation to oust Rosenstein highlights a cautious approach Trump allies have adopted as the Republican party barrels toward a potential bloodbath in the midterms. Some Republicans fear Trump firing Rosenstein now would only further energize Democrats making the case to voters that the president is corrupt and needs to be reined in by a Democratic House.

[…]

In a Friday interview, Jordan, one of Rosenstein’s fiercest critics in Congress, sidestepped questions about whether the House should revisit Rosenstein’s impeachment or try to hold him in contempt of Congress. Rather, he said, a more focused push to obtain sensitive documents from the Justice Department — which Trump’s allies say would expose anti-Trump bias and corruption the FBI — is the most urgent priority.

“I want to see those memos and evaluate them,” said Jordan, who has clashed publicly with Rosenstein over access to documents and accused him of threatening House Intelligence Committee staffers, an allegation Rosenstein denied.

Politico cites two possible explanations for lawmakers’ hesitation: Republicans are running out of time before members devote themselves full-time to their reelection campaigns. Republicans are worried that the story could have been intentionally planted to provoke Rosenstein’s firing in order to improve Democrats’ chances of retaking the Senate AND the House (Trump actively moving to crush the Mueller probe would be quite the propaganda win for the Dems).

Sean Hannity took this latter theory a step further during his show on Friday evening, where he urged Trump not to fire Rosie and instead insisted that the story could have been a “trap”. He added that he had been told by “multiple sources” that the story was planted by unspecified “enemies of Trump.”

“I have a message for the president tonight,” Hannity said Friday night. “Under zero circumstances should the president fire anybody…the president needs to know it is all a setup.”

Still, a handful of conservative commentators, including Laura Ingraham, urged Trump to fire Rosenstein immediately. And for Trump’s part, he hinted at a rally Friday night in Missouri that he planned to “get rid” of the “lingering stench” at the DOJ, which many interpreted as a hint that his firing is imminent.

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